15 Years Later, a Survivor 

Happy Birthday to me! October is a special month for me, as it is my second birthday, the anniversary of my autologous stem cell transplant. Something many people do not like to talk about is their medical history. I used to feel the same way, it’s almost terrifying to think that you are different, that there was something wrong with you. In my younger years, I used to pretend that nothing had ever happened to me, that I was as normal as every one of my peers. But, your past has a way of following you around, and it reared it’s ugly head again right in the beginning of my 21st year. I had cancer. It was to me, the worst diagnosis one could ever receive. It meant being ill again, losing my hair again, not being able to have a normal life yet again. The first time, I was 16, and I did not yet have a job or any real responsibility. It was much easier for me to just be out of school and have some homeschooling while I went through my treatment. This time was going to be different. I had a car payment, I had bills, I was in college, I had a job, and a relationship. This time, I had to walk away from everything I had started to build as my whole life came crumbling down around me. I had hoped that I could retain some semblance of a normal 20 year old life, but that didn’t happen. I spent my 21st birthday vomiting, but it wasn’t from a night of drinking like the average 21 year old birthday celebration. I ended up spiraling downward faster than I could blink after I finished my final chemotherapy treatments and my stem cell transplant that October. I would go on to be on a ventilator, in a coma, and hospitalized for 3 months straight.

When I was awakened from my coma, I was surprised by my complete paralysis from muscle atrophy. I cannot even begin to explain how it felt. I had to be fed, changed, and sponge bathed. It was painful to try to move, and I had become so sickly thin from muscle atrophy and weight loss. My parents carried me home, literally, right before Christmas. It would take 3 months of therapy for me to learn how to walk again, and I don’t know how long it took for me to feel normal again. Years I think. It was 4 years before I was able to start working at my job again.

But here I sit, 11 years later, to tell my tale. My message to everyone out there who is battling cancer right now. Don’t give up. Ever. It was the hardest battle I’d ever fought in my life, but the one most worth the fight. I know more people now than ever before who are battling this condition, and I feel for them, because I was once there too, and I know the horrors of the treatments that they are given with the promise of a big ‘maybe you will survive this.’ I am grateful to myself for never giving up, for my family and friends for always being there for me, and to my doctors and nurses, who saved my life.

This year, I have graduated college at the top of my class, given birth to my adorable son, and I have an amazing fiancé. I finally feel like my life is starting to go in the direction it was intended to. Happy Birthday to me, indeed.

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